Christian Horner disputes Red Bull are the favourites to win the F1 2023 titles

Michelle Foster
Christian Horner, Red Bull, speaks to reporters. Mexico, October 2022.

Red Bull principal Christian Horner speaks to the media in a press conference. Mexico, October 2022.

Holders of both championship titles, Christian Horner says Red Bull are motivated by their transition from “hunter to hunted”.

Losing the championship double to Mercedes at the beginning of the turbo hybrid era, Red Bull spent seven seasons chasing Mercedes until finally they caught them in 2021.

That year Max Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton to the Drivers’ Championship in a neck-and-neck race that was decided on the very last lap of the season.

Verstappen followed that up with a second in 2022, cruising to the title, while Red Bull also picked up the Constructors’ trophy.

It was the team’s first double since 2013 and one that has placed a target firmly on their backs.

“It’s a different situation for us,” he said at the launch of Red Bull’s 2023 season. “Defending those titles we go from being the hunter to the hunted and I think that everybody in the team is is so motivated and fully up for this challenge.

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“I think having tasted that success last year, some subtle regulation changes for this year, everybody back in the factory is just pushing flat out and we’re excited to see the car for the run for the first time.

“Only three days of testing before we go racing. And then it’s going to be nine months travelling around the world, racing at these different venues and it’s going to be, I think, an incredibly competitive year this year.”

Team boss downplays ‘favourite’ tag

Red Bull go into the new season as the favourites to once again secure the titles.

Although the team is having to prepare for 2023 under a budget cap penalty, Red Bull limited in their R&D time as punishment for exceeding the spending limit in 2021, such was the team’s advantage last season that few believe it will have a major impact this season.

Horner disagrees with that sentiment and has called the penalty a “significant handicap that we carry for the majority of the year.”

He also refutes suggestions Red Bull are the favourites, adamant that’s whoever has the fastest car come the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

“Because of what we achieved last year, we’ll go into the season with that title,” he admitted to Auto Motor und Sport, “but for me, it means nothing.

“I think that the favourite is whoever has the best car in Bahrain.”

Verstappen also wants the best start

But while Horner fears the penalty could hurt Red Bull, Verstappen says the team is just getting on with the job at hand.

One of those jobs entails making a better start than they did last season when the Dutchman suffered two retirements in the first three races.

Trailing Charles Leclerc by 46 points after Australia, Verstappen fought back to win the title by 146 points.

“I mean, for sure, I don’t think it’s hanging over us because we never really talk about it,” Verstappen said in response to a question from about Red Bull’s penalty.

“We are just very focused on what we’re doing right now, try to of course put everything on the car, what we have been developing and try to hit the ground running very well.

“Definitely have a better start to the year than we had last year and then from there, we’ll see.

“I mean, it’s difficult to predict what will happen. Are we good enough? Are we going to be quick enough? I don’t know.”